For over 100 years, Merino sheep have been poorly bred to have more and more wrinkles, due to a misconception that more wrinkles bring more wool. However, the combination of the Australian humid climate and sheep with a lot of wrinkles – where moisture is retained, make the average Australian Merino sheep highly vulnerable to parasites. In the 1920s, in response to regular outbreaks of flystrike in Australia, John Mules developed a quick and cheap but cruel technique – mulesing.
Mulesing is the process where lambs, just 6-12 weeks old, are restrained on their backs, while strips of skin are cut away from their backside. Mulesing causes lambs excruciating pain, fear, and stress, and it's currently still legal to carry out this procedure without any form of pain relief.
Due to a global consumer outcry, the Australian wool industry committed to phasing out mulesing by 2010. Unfortunately, this commitment was abandoned in 2009. With a lack of effective industry leadership to enable change, it’s now up to consumers and brands to call for an end to mulesing.
In 2017, industry front runners such as Textile Exchange and H&M initiated the robust wool standard 'Responsible Wool Standard' to exclude mulesing and help make the supply of wool transparent and traceable, helping to ensure that mulesing-free wool will not get mixed up with mulesed wool along the supply chain.
No excuse for mulesing
Pain-free solutions, like the use of naturally flystrike resistant sheep, are available, standards are in place, all major wool suppliers can offer certified mulesing-free wool, and more brands are speaking out publicly against mulesing.
However, we need brands to commit to phase out mulesed-wool within a set timeline (i.e.: '100% certified mulesing-free by 2025') in order to send a big enough signal to Australian wool growers to make the switch.
With our campaign and, more importantly, YOUR help, we can end this cruel and outdated practice once and for all. Together, we can write history and make the world a better place for sheep!
September 2021: Open letter – Brands call for mulesing-free wool industry
More and more brands are moving away from mulesed sheep wool, and have signed an open letter calling for a concrete plan to transition away from the gruesome and outdated practice of mulesing. All signed brands are either already certified mulesing-free or intend to be by 2030, and they ask the Australian wool industry to enable that shift away from mulesing.
April 2021: Big win! Puma commits to go certified mulesing-free
With your help we could convinced Puma to make a commitment to only source mulesing-free merino wool. This propelled the brand from ‘bronze’ to ‘silver’ in our brand-check. Well done, Puma!
March: Calling on brands to end mulesing
FOUR PAWS supporters can now send an email to the lowest scoring brands in our ranking to go mulesing-free. Join us in calling on the ‘black sheep’ to improve and care about the lambs in their supply chain.
March 2021: Success! International brand-check launched & 7 brands convinced to make a commitment
FOUR PAWS launches the brand-check to help you chose brands that are mulesing-free! The brand-check is the result of intensive conversations with brands. We can now show you how far brands have come in their efforts to transition away from mulesing and the hard work is paying off. Seven brands have committed to only source mulesing-free merino wool. Whenever a brand decides to exclude mulesing, it sends a strong signal to the farmers in their supply chain, telling them they need to ditch the cruel practice.
FEBRUARY 2021: 2nd Online Wool Training takes place
Following the high interest shown by brands, a 2nd online Wool Training was organised by FOUR PAWS together with the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile to explain more about wool standards that can exclude mulesing.
FEBRUARY 2021: 185 fashion brands now oppose mulesing
Our list of 100 brands against mulesing, published in April 2020, has grown. There are now already 185 fashion brands on the list, setting a clear stance against the cruel mutilation of sheep called mulesing.
DECEMBER 2020: 170,000 supporters ask brands to end mulesing
A big thank you to the 170,000 supporters who have signed the petition asking brands to end mulesing! Join the call and sign the petition!
DECEMBER 2020: Online Wool Training takes place
An online Wool Training was organised by FOUR PAWS and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile to talk about mulesing and highlight the solutions.
NOVEMBER 2020: The 'Knitting Kind' guide is published
The 'Knitting Kind' guide informs about animal welfare problems within the wool industry, labels who guarantee mulesing-free products, as well as plant-based materials which make equally fun to knit with.
OCTOBER 2020: Calling the EU government institutions and the Australian Mission to the EU to go for mulesing-free
FOUR PAWS was invited to present the pain-free solutions to mulesing based on the new economic report 'Towards a Non-Mulesed Future' to the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Australian Mission to the EU. The presentation was a part of a meeting on the Trade Negotiations between the EU and Australia.
OCTOBER 2020: Presentation on Wool Connect conference
FOUR PAWS was invited, along with Humane Society Australia and BG Economics, to present the main findings of the report 'Towards a Non-Mulesed Future' at the international Wool Connect Conference where mulesing became the key topic.
AUGUST 2020: Ground-breaking economic report was released in Australia
The report debunks many myths, including that transitioning away from mulesing is too costly for producers. The results clearly show that transitioning away from mulesing by using flystrike resistant sheep types (sheep without excess skin and wrinkles among others), can in fact be economically profitable for producers. A win-win for the animals and the people!
AUGUST 2020: Tchibo has made a commitment
Tchibo – one of Germany’s largest retail chains – has made a commitment with our support to phase out mulesed wool through obtaining the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) by 2022.
JUNE 2020: Finally, a legal ban of mulesing in New South Wales is discussed in parliament
FOUR PAWS has reached out to supporters to speak in favour of a bill, which aims to spare millions of lambs from the gruesome mulesing mutilation in the biggest wool producing region in Australia, New South Wales.
JUNE 2020: Jack Wolfskin has made a commitment
Jack Wolfskin – a popular German producer of outdoor wear – has made a major commitment to phase out mulesed wool by 2025 and has earned a spot within the more progressive category in our brand list against mulesing.
APRIL 2020: Launch of the Brands Against Mulesing list
FOUR PAWS publishes an extensive list of brands who are against mulesing. These brands are outspoken against the cruel practice and send with their statements a clear demand signal for mulesing-free wool.
APRIL 2020: FOUR PAWS is guest speaker as an animal welfare expert in a feature show on wool and mulesing
The SPIEGEL article (‘The screaming of the lambs – How sheep have to suffer for our cuddly Merino sweaters’) and the subsequently produced SPIEGEL TV documentary for the German TV network ZDF (title: ‘The true price of cuddly wool’) found out that 90 % of Australian Merino sheep are mutilated through mulesing without anaesthesia. A detailed depiction of how the bloody wool for our clothing is produced.
MARCH 2020: FOUR PAWS on German TV (WDR)
FOUR PAWS was again invited to appear on German TV to raise awareness about the problems, as well as solutions, related to the mutilation of Merino sheep by mulesing.
MARCH 2020: Austrian Comedians Monica Weinzettl und Gerold Rudle speak out against mulesing and for #woolwithabutt
The Austrian comedians have enough of animal cruelty. They urge people to call for mulesing-free wool or wool with a butt from their favourite brands in order to end mulesing and spare over 10 million lambs from this cruelty each year.
JANUARY 2020: O’Neill Europe commits to phase out Merino wool
O’Neill Europe – the original Californian surf & lifestyle brand – has made a strong commitment with our support to immediately stop sourcing Merino wool due to the animal welfare issue of mulesing.
JANUARY 2020: FOUR PAWS Austria has published a brand ranking and helped 3 brands to commit to a phase out
FOUR PAWS and the Consumer Protection Department of AK Upper Austria have taken a closer look at 14 Austrian companies that process Merino wool or sell products containing Merino wool. Only for three of the 14 brands can the consumers be sure, with a high degree of probability, that there is no mulesing behind the wool sold or processed. Interspar, Hervis and Grüne Erde reacted immediately.
NOVEMBER 2019: Target Australia and Kmart commit to phase out mulesed wool
Through working with FOUR PAWS and other animal protection groups, Australian retail giants Target and Kmart announced time-bound commitments to phase out mulesed wool.
NOVEMBER 2019: FOUR PAWS speaks out against mulesing on German TV
The report produced by German TV station RBB with the title ‘Merino Wool: Concern About Animal Welfare’ informed viewers about the animal welfare issues connected to our global consumption of clothing as well as reliable certification, including an interview with Martina Stephany, Director of the Farm Animal Department at FOUR PAWS.
OCTOBER 2019: Launch of the Wool Guidebook for brands
The Wool Guidebook is an informative resource for brands and retailers to understand the animal welfare problems connected to mulesing. It alsohighlights what steps the brands need to take to transition away from this cruel practice.
SEPTEMBER 2019: FOUR PAWS explains welfare issues of Merino wool production on German TV
In the documentary produced by Xenius with the title ‘The Suffering of Sheep for their Great Wool’ FOUR PAWS raises awareness for the severe animal welfare issues connected with Merino wool production.
SEPTEMBER 2019: Launch of the #WoolWithaButt campaign site
FOUR PAWS launches the campaign site where the story of the lamb is told. A lamb, who once had a 'butt', which was cruelly cut off in order to adapt the lamb to the requirements of a whole industry living off its wool. In our campaign we urge brands to commit to exclude mulesed wool from their product range and instead source mulesing-free wool or wool with a butt, as we call it, so that lambs are spared from this mutilation practice.
AUGUST 2019: Country Road Group committed to phase out mulesed wool
The announcement by leading Australian fashion group Country Road Group, which includes brands such as Witchery and David Jones, committing to phase out mulesed sheep wool, was a significant step in the right direction towards better animal protection in the fashion industry. FOUR PAWS was delighted to support Country Road Group on their journey to make this important decision.
MAY 2019: FOUR PAWS Australian team identifies and advocates for alternatives to mulesing
FOUR PAWS has 15 offices around the world, one of these being in Australia – home to the world’s largest wool production industry and unfortunately, also to the practice of mulesing. Following significant industry dialogue, our Australian team helped to identify the solution to mulesing and began engaging extensively on the issue. Sign our petition!
2017: The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) was launched
Through giving animal welfare advice, FOUR PAWS supported the creation of the Responsible Wool Standard, run by Textile Exchange. The Responsible Wool Standards (RWS) aims to ensure high animal welfare and sustainability practices are met within wool production – and also bans mulesing.